Andrew Athias, a 28-year-old social media manager from Cherry Hill, N.J., got his hands on a box of the new peanut butter-only cups early — he has TikTok and Instagram accounts dedicated to his love of Reese’s — and described it as “really tasty.”
“As someone who has been known to eat peanut butter by the spoonful — and I know there are a lot of people who do that — it tastes just like that,” he said. “It’s like eating two types of peanut butter at the same time. It’s subtle.”
Companies periodically release new products to drum up publicity and sales, sometimes testing consumers’ tolerance for variety. Oreo, in the last decade, has introduced limited-edition flavors like Jelly Donut, Mississippi Mud Pie, Swedish Fish and Watermelon. Watermelon was widely seen as a flop.
Silvia Bellezza, an associate professor of marketing at Columbia Business School, said that brands, and particularly established brands that have been on the market for a long time, offer new takes on classics to see if new items will become popular and to keep up brands’ visibility.
“It’s important to keep them lively, to keep the discussion going, to have something new on the shelves,” she said. “Once you have established this asset in people’s minds, which costs money and time, then you try to make the most of it.”
That Hershey felt it could ditch the chocolate signals the company’s view that peanut butter is the “hero” of the product, she said. (Though it has lost chocolate, the new Reese’s still contains hydrogenated vegetable oil, corn syrup and a number of other ingredients.)
Hershey has experimented before. Last month, it released organic Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in milk and dark chocolate, an attempt to deflect competition from a number of smaller companies, like Trader Joe’s, which sells a dark chocolate peanut butter cup, and Justin’s, a Colorado-based company that sells organic peanut better and almond butter cups.